The kindness of strangers
This is a mini post about meeting one of the kindest humans I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so far.
Two days ago I snapped my first spoke, in the rear wheel on the cassette (cogs) side, so I stopped at a suitably shaped tree to use as a bike stand and went about trying to fix it. This is where I quickly discovered what an utter moronic novice I am, I didn’t have a cassette tool or chain whip to get the rear cassette off so that I could then take the old spoke out and put a new one in. To top it off it was a Sunday so all the bike shops were shut and I had just had a day off and only cycled 30km and I’m behind on my schedule to get to Russia… but I figured, this adventure is at least 180 days and decided it really wasn’t all that bad, what’s an extra day, the obstacle is the way as the stoics would say.
So, I walked my bike another 5km and pitched my tent early, relaxed and enjoyed falling asleep to the sound of heavy rain drumming loudly against the fabric of my tent. In the morning I had breakfast, packed up and slowly slowly cycled to the nearest bike shop. When I arrived, they told me they were too busy to fix it but a guy called Andrzej Bos would be able to. So, I then turned up at a kind of farmhouse-looking place, with lots of bicycles outside, it had a nice feel to it and I could see an old workshop with the door open but no one inside. I knocked on the front door and a rather grizzled and sour-looking – but as it happened, very nice – old lady opened it. I understood nothing she said, but through an open window I could hear the sound of plates clinking and I assumed the bike mechanic guy was still having his breakfast, so I waited and played with a little black Labrador puppy.
After five minutes a healthy-looking late middle aged guy in blue overalls and flip flops with socks came walking out straight towards me and shook my hand firmly with a warm smile and introduced himself. I told him my problem and he nodded his head vigorously saying yes to each thing I told him. Then I told him that I’d come from London; he seemed shocked. I then told him I’m going to Tokyo. “Tokyo, Tokyo?!!” he said, in a slightly higher pitched voice than normal, we both laughed and then he quickly wheeled my bike into the workshop and told me to sit down. He then asked if I was thirsty, with water and cordial being brought to me in response. Then, about five minutes later, coffee and cake appeared too. By this point I was pretty shocked by the hospitality and almost felt a bit guilty as I didn’t feel I had done anything to deserve being treated so well.
I sat and watched Andrzej work on my bike while I enjoyed my coffee, cake and the amazing workshop I was in which seemed to have a lifetime of memories bestowed upon the walls. Andrzej’s wife then came out and introduced herself, we did our best to communicate and she asked if I was hungry, I jokingly said I was always hungry when cycling, she laughed and then quickly disappeared coming back with sandwiches and tea. Andrzej then said something in Polish and his wife translated and said “you do not pay, this is all for free”, I tried to protest and did so more than three times but they refused.
I had never experienced kindness like this and began to feel a bit emotional; all faith in humanity restored. In only my third week, I was experiencing yet again on this trip the true kindness people can show, the kindness you’re never really told about in the news.
Andrzej didn’t just fix my spoke and give me breakfast, he also checked and trued my front wheel, checked my gears, and cleaned my whole bike. After having one last try to give him some money for his time I was refused again and sent on my way with a packed lunch.
If you liked my post, please take the time to head to my Virgin Money giving page to donate. Over the course of my trip, I’m hoping to raise at least £5,000 for CLIC Sargent and Hope and Homes for Children.
Wonderful description and beautifully written report of this experience of real kindness and generosity. Love the photos too!
I sit here reading your posts and smile the whole way through, man. I’m so jealous of your experiences but I live vicariously through you. Keep these coming and don’t waver 🙂
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Maybe we should visit these guys if we ever head up to Poland!
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